Gov. Neil Abercrombie met with reporters today to recount his success stories from his travels in Beijing, Okinawa and Tokyo over the past two weeks.
“Visitor industry growth, economic cooperation, streamlining the visa process, and the upcoming Asia Pacific Economic Cooperation (APEC) conference” were at the top of the governor’s agenda during his Asia tour. He also wanted to teach people in Asia about the Aloha spirit.
While nothing definite happened in terms of visa reform, Abercrombie remains hopeful, like Governors before him, that he can simplify the process so that it is not so cumbersome and frustrating to travel to Hawaii from China.
Hawaii Tourism Authority President and CEO Mike McCartney, who attended the press conference, said that the governor met with 35 tourism and government leaders while on tour, and that “no other Hawai’i governor has traveled so early on his or her administration to Japan and China, and our partners recognize his outreach and commitment to Hawaii’s number one industry.”
After talking with the Minister-Counselor for Consular Affairs Charles Bennett at the U.S. Embassy about the visa issue, Abercrombie said: “I was encouraged by our Embassy and by Chinese leaders to pursue expediting the visa process. In order to attract more visitors from China, the State Department is working to streamline the visa process. I’m happy my relationships in Washington put me in a position where I can be helpful in coordinating with this effort.”
Both Abercrombie and McCartney maintain that Hawaii is benefitting from Chinese visitors and they hope more Asian visitors will travel here.
The HTA reports that in 2010, there were more than 62,000 visitors from China, which is an increase of 48 percent over 2009. The HTA also said the “per person per day spending was $351, up 23 percent; the per person per trip spending was $2,076, up 4 percent; and that approximately 91,000 Chinese visitors will arrive in 2011, up 37% over 2010.”
While China Eastern Airlines recently cut its trips to Hawaii by 4 per week, Abercrombie and McCartney are confident that the visitor count from China will increase and that flights will resume once the visa situation becomes easier to navigate.
While in Japan, the Governor said he told people he met about Hawaii’s efforts to support Japan in its recovery from the March earthquake and tsunami.
“The Governor was well-received wherever he went. He understands the role that the Asian market plays in our tourism industry but he also cares very much for the people in these countries,” McCartney said.
One of the main focuses, Abercrombie said, was establishing relationships before the November APEC conference.
“This is our chance to showcase that Hawaii is much more than just a visitor destination. The leaders from APEC’s 21-member economies will learn that our islands are the perfect gathering place to conduct business.”
Hawaii is expecting more than 20,000 people from around the world during the conference, which is scheduled from November 7 to 13 on Oahu.
President Barack Obama will be attending APEC, but while Abercrombie is still scheduling his meetings, he said today that he does not believe that he will meet with Obama while he is here.
More on the web: http://www.flickr.com/photos/neilabercrombie/sets/72157627872287544/